Saturday, November 25, 2006

Identifying Sects of Iraqi Victims

I have noticed from the comments section of this blog, Angry Arab, Healing Iraq, Baghdad Treasure, and a few others that to identify the sect of murder victims in Iraq is to invite almost certain attack from people who say things like 'I am puzzled why these posters are so rude, and almost entirely failing to examine the present for solutions. Even Saad said that eliminating religious identifications in discussing various incidents of murder would have some effect in restoring peace.'

Is it rude or inappropriate to identify the sect of an Iraqi when discussing the casualties of the current civil war? Apparently to some people it is rude to say whether an Iraqi murder victim is Shii or Sunni, and at least one commentator on Zeyad’s blog believes that not identifying the sects of victims will somehow bring about peace in Iraq. When I told Baghdad Treasure in his comment section that as a Shii I was ashamed to read about Shia militias murdering innocent Sunna, he said that Shia militias do not represent all Shia and Sunni militants who kill innocents do not represent all Sunna. He said ‘we never talked about this subject [whether Iraqis are Shia or Sunna] and we are always friends forever. We are all Iraqis and just Iraqis.’ Even my parents told me that we do not tell people that we are Shia – we just say that we are Muslim. Many Iraqis, like Alaa the Mesopotamian and the Jarrar kids, are products of inter-sect marriages, and they cannot be labeled as Shia or Sunna by their sectarian lineage. However, their ideologies and the way they discuss the war show that they too have chosen sides.

While it is true that Iraqi Shia and Sunna coexisted peacefully before 2003, the fact is that the top brass of Saddam Hussein’s regime were Tikritis, and the vast majority of their victims were Shia and Kurds. Sunni Arabs who defied Saddam’s rule (or even insulted him or his family) were also murdered or jailed, but Sunni Arab towns never saw the mass slaughter of their people like many Shia and Kurdish towns did. Are the Sunni Arabs of Iraq to blame for what Saddam and his henchmen did to the Shia and Kurds? Absolutely not, and the Iraqi people never blamed the Sunni Arabs for the crimes of Saddam Hussein’s regime. Sunni Arab civilians were attacked in large scale by Shia militias for the first time in 2005.

In 2003 the Baathi mafia was overthrown by the Americans, and today the Tikriti clan and their supporters no longer dominate the political scene in Iraq. The insurgency that emerged after the invasion started targeting Shia neighborhoods and towns in addition to Iraqis who worked for the new government and the Americans, and they continue to do so. The vast majority of victims of suicide bombings have been Shia. Arab media does not like to admit this fact, but even they cannot escape it when a suicide bomber detonates his explosives in Hilla or Sadr city, both dominated by Shia. It seems that the Arab media only started acknowledging that this is primarily a sectarian war when Shia militias began mass murdering innocent Sunna in 2005.

After the recent murder of Iraqi comedian Walid Hassan, who made fun of US forces, the Iraqi government, and sectarian militias, I was curious whether he was Sunni or Shii. This wasn’t discussed by the media, certainly not the Arab media. I finally found the answer in the Washington Post:

‘On Monday, Hassan, 47, a father of five children, became a victim of the war and chaos from which he drew his inspiration. A Shiite Muslim, he was found in the majority-Sunni neighborhood of Yarmouk in west Baghdad with multiple bullet wounds to his back and head, according to police.’

We don’t know who murdered Hassan, but the Post article certainly gives facts that cannot be found in Arab media. It gives us context that symbolizes the greater conflict. Compare the Post’s coverage of Hassan’s murder to that of Al Jazeera (the progressive Arab news source):

‘Walid Hassan, whose satirical television show made fun of the US-led forces, sectarian militias and the government, was shot three times in the head while on his way to work.’

The same Al Jazeera article points out that the Iraqi Education Ministry, which was recently attacked by Shia militias and dozens of their employees were kidnapped, was Sunni-run, and the Interior Minister, a Shii, said that the attack was not sectarian based:

‘Nearly 1,500 Iraqis have been reported killed during November. "We are in a state of war and in war all measures are permissible," Abd al-Qader Jassim, Iraq's defence minister, said on Monday.

He was speaking at a news conference attended by several government ministers who are at odds over the fate of dozens of kidnapped education ministry workers.

Education officials have rejected government claims that most of the hostages have been freed, saying dozens are still missing. They blamed Shia militias for abducting them.

Iraq's interior minister, a Shia, said that the attack on the Sunni-run higher education ministry was not sectarian.’

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